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Santa Anita News and Notes Oct 23

•    Four weeks are in the books at the Great Race Place in Arcadia, California, but it hasn’t looked like the Great Race Place the last couple of weeks. Too many short fields and a lack of “quality” races makes Santa Anita look much more like Golden Gate Fields in Northern California. It looks like it will stay that way for at least one more week, then should improve sharply as the country gears up for the Breeders Cup in the final week of this meet. With the B/C in Kentucky this year, Santa Anita has an excellent lineup of stakes races for the final weekend on November 2,3, and 4. The main track has played fair for the most part except for this past Saturday when early speed was dominant. But biases don’t last long here as the maintenance crew tries very hard to get the track back to playing fair when one does occur. The turf course has played fair in two turn races but early speed has been the course profile throughout the meet for the sprints coming down the hill. Racing returns this Thursday with their normal four day week and the Super High Five carries over in to race one at $14,000 plus. Nobody has been the single ticket winner of the 20 cent pick six since the meet began, and I don’t see anyone being the single ticket winner until closing day, when the payout is mandatory. The c/o into Thursday is $724,000 plus.

•    Stakes action has been very poor the last couple of weeks with small fields and races made up of allowance and high classed claimers. Cal breds lined up on Saturday for the California Flag Handicap and after the scratch of Tribalist, only five went to the post, and two of them were low claimers who didn’t belong. They made Richards Boy the 3 to 10 favorite, even though he had lost 10 straight. He got in a pace duel with Eddie Haskell and soon was to make it 11 straight. Brandothebartender, who was coming back in just six days, took advantage of the duel and the super quick fractions of 20.94 and 43.22, and easily ran by them in the final sixteenth to pay a nice $16.40. This was at the five furlong distance which they are trying this meet for the first time on the grass. I hope it’s the last time as the sprints coming down the hill are unique in American racing and they don’t need to be like Del Mar with these 5/8 trips. Peter Miller, who trains Richard’s Boy, is still considering him for the B/C, but with all the good turf sprinters he has in his barn, this one should stay home. On Sunday, they had six go in the Sunny Slope stakes for two year olds sprinting on the main track. But early scratches took two out of the race and only four went to post. Once again, an early speed duel developed and the recipient of that was Sparky Ville, who layed well off the pace and got up at $6.20 under Gary Stevens, who is riding this meet like he’s 25 instead of 55. This one had just been gelded for trainer Jeff Bonde. Nothing to follow out of this race.

•    Stakes action is limited once again this week with just two events. On Saturday, they run the first graded stakes in three weeks with the Autumn Miss, a Grade 3 for soph fillies at a mile on the turf. Now they do have a lot of 3 year old fillies at Santa Anita and most are eager to try the lawn, so they should have at least 10 for this race. Then on Sunday they run the Comma to the Top stakes at a flat mile on the main track for older runners. Battle of Midway, who won’t defend his title in the Breeders Cup Mile, heads up that field. Another interesting runner in this race is Roman Rosso for Baffert. He is the work horse for champion West Coast, who worked Saturday. “Rosso” was the target for West Coast, and although the champ caught him late in a six furlong drill, he was all out to get by him. West Coast worked ¾ in a strong 1:11.80 with Rosso getting 1:12 flat. Roman Rosso should be tough on Sunday.

•    With the B/C less than two weeks away, trainer Bob Baffert is loaded for the Classic. Not only will he have West Coast primed and ready, he will also run McKinzie and Collected. McKinzie was the best 3 year old Baffert had back in March until he suffered a minor injury, and then a horse named Justify started to develop. Collected has run some big races in the past, but he has been off for a very long time. Accelerate is still the favorite for the race for trainer John Sadler, but he seems to be a very vulnerable one in my opinion. Sadler will also saddle Catalina Cruiser for the Mile, and he is  undefeated in four starts and the likely favorite.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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